Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant

How to manage childish boss behavior and thrive in your job

How to Tame a Whiny Boss

Don't Let Your Boss Sap Your Energy

The office is quiet, yet buzzing with the low hum of hard work. The mood is serious when your boss makes an appearance and starts to whine: "Aren't you finished yet? But whyyyy? I've been waiting forever. What's taking so loooong?..." If your Terrible Office Tyrant (TOT) groans endlessly, here's why. But what follows are tips on how you can tame a childish or bad boss, aka TOT who is whiny, helping them see the lighter side (or at least giving you some space!)

Toddler whining and TOT whining have a lot in common. Small children are dependent and often resentful of the fact that so little is in their control. We've all heard the high, nasal, continuous cry in supermarkets and toy stores. In an attempt to manipulate grown-ups to their will, toddlers and children can cause adults to do almost anything, if only to get the infernal noise to stop.

TOTs in the workplace are no strangers to grousing. It's a way to get what they want, be it comfort and support or results and achievement. Many a subordinate will hop to it, if not to stop the TOT from whining, then as an act of career protection. Your TOT, struggling with feelings of inadequacy, fear, loneliness, or fatigue, may reach back for the tactic that never let him down as a toddler. So your job can become exhausting as a result.

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Why Your TOT Whines

There are four major catalysts that may cause your boss to crank up the griping. But don't lose heart; there are answers!

Powerlessness - Whiners unleash their best howls when they feel powerless or threatened. Whining is a tried and true way to influence people, even if the agreement is only made so the whining will stop.

No Fuel in the Tank - Like toddlers, TOTs revert to whining when their energy is sapped. It's quite possible that when your boss is whining, he may just be tired or hungry. Watch out just before lunch.

Loneliness - Whining is often a bid for attention. Your whining TOT, especially the one who whines about personal life issues, may be trying to draw your sympathy and bond with you.

Disappointment - In toddlers, whining is often a reaction to the realization that things are not going to go their way. Faced with disappointment, this can happen in TOTs as well. Your TOT may whine simply to vent frustration and dismay.

TOT-Taming Tips

Whining is a behavior most TOTs (with help from TOT tamers) can control, if given the proper mindset, instructions and encouragement. Consistency is key, no matter how annoying the whining gets. "TOT Tamers" must be willing to demonstrate clear expectations and not get drawn into the emotions of the moment, as seen in these tips:

Be Aware of Timing - Remember that TOTs, like toddlers, get cranky as the day wears on. Asking them to do something new or important late in the day is dangerous and may bring on a Whine Attack! Instead, try to keep late-day surprises to a minimum, presenting new information to your TOT at the start of the day. Look for body language clues and be prepared to back off if you see telltale signs such as rubbing of the eyes, repetitive yawns, or distractibility. (Yes, true with big children!) If whining occurs at specific times, direct your tougher conversations to better times.

Don't Feed Into the Whining - Matching a whine with another whine just adds fuel to the fire. Deflect and defuse the whining with calm conversation and, where possible, humor. In situations when your boss seems like he's ready to whine, give him verbal and nonverbal indications that you're not going to offer your full attention. Let him know you're on deadline for a project that he requested.

Consider Energy Levels - Help keep the boss fed at long meetings because hungry TOTs are whining TOTs. Pay attention to the meal schedule, including snacks, and you'll head off many complaint sessions. Snacks can be seen as a generous offer that also chills out a whiny TOT.

Anticipate Needs - Head off a "Whine-a-Thon" by giving information and feedback to your boss consistently. If she doesn't have to ask for it, she'll be less whiny. But don't go overboard and overwhelm your TOT with your project deliverables. If you must bring a number of them to her, you should prioritize them-or space them out. Find the right pace at which to submit your projects.

Whining is a habit that can be changed. With some well-honed TOT-taming techniques, you just might turn those familiar "But why's?!" into more pleasant phrases, such as, "Let's try it, why not?"

 

Lynn Taylor is a workplace expert specializing in boss and employee dynamics; she is the author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant

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